Utrechtse Golf Club 'De Pan'
An essay composed by our Benelux correspondent on Utrechtse Golf Club 'De Pan'
A few weeks ago I had the honor of playing De Pan which is The Netherlands answer to the great Heathland courses such as Sunningdale and Woodhall Spa of England and arguably among Harry Colt’s top masterpieces. I had the added pleasure of catching it on a sunny warm day and playing with two highly knowledgeable gentlemen. All the makings for a perfect day of golf!
De Pan has my vote as being the best members club of The Netherlands. In clarifying what I mean I would point towards the complete package it offers. The course has an excellent layout in a quiet forest setting, it’s compact and very easy to walk yet so many holes allow you a secluded feeling. The course is fair and relatively forgiving in comparison to other top courses in The Netherlands and “YES” this is a good thing for members. It allows for the highest level of pleasure and playability regardless of the hcp’s without losing 10 balls per round in doing so. That is not to say it’s not challenging for all levels just that it’s fair and playable for them. Even this summer which has been one of the wettest on record they have managed to keep the course playable and the rough out of the ball losing standards of the top links courses in NL. It is also notable that most of the holes at De Pan allow many choices of shots and strategies as well as proper usage of the ground game, which I highly enjoy.
Since there is so little to be critical of at De Pan I will start with a couple comments I’m intending to be lightly sarcastic but true to my personal experience. First of all it’s very difficult to find for the first time, I remember laughing to myself and thinking they don’t want to be found. I believe they like this but it hasn’t been admitted to me first hand. The first time I went I used a route finder in my car. I was happy that it recognized the course. Too bad it led me to a destination close by, in fact someplace near the backside of the course where you could see it but not access it yet and still be at least 10 minutes away, even more if like me you had relied on the route finder. I had to call after 15 minutes more of searching. Google maps also indicates the wrong route. I note this is not a fault of the club most likely just a quirk with these route finders. Quickly I learned that trying to determine your distances to the pin position on the course is similar to trying to find it. I’d recommend all guests get a couple extra shots in their matches against the members that invite them. Actually De Pan does have distances on sprinkler heads and if you inform in advance you will be fine. The trick is the distances are to the front of the greens, not unique if you are in Spain for example but in The Netherlands it’s the only course I’ve run into that measures it’s distances like that. I say this partially in fun but on the other hand I played the first round there in it’s entirety before I was told by a member on the terrace that the distances were to the front of the greens. As to the course related comments I have these can be found below in my hole-by hole descriptions.
1st hole – 443 meter par 5 (S.I. 15) – called ‘Zandverstuiving’ (Sand Drift)
This is an excellent and classic Colt gentle start. Open tee shot to a highly undulated rolling fairway that is quite wide. A good tee shot down the middle will offer a shot of reaching the green in two. Heather and trees line both sides of this fairway as well as a sandy waste area on the right hand side. The first green is 33 meters long and sets the tone for the large undulated green complexes Colt has designed on this lovely course.
2nd hole – 376 meter par 4 (S.I. 5) – called ‘Pijpenstrootje’ (Purple Moor Grass)
This is a tough little par 4 characterized by a tight drive to a fairly narrow fairway with bunkers, heather and rough protecting both the left and right sides. Hitting the fairway is a must on this hole if you want a chance at the 27 meter deep gently undulated green protected by two bunkers front left and right side.
3rd hole – 158 meter par 3 (S.I. 17) – called ‘Ree’ (Deer)
This medium short part 3 is essentially all carry over heather protected by two deep bunkers left and right front. The green slopes from front to back and is all of 32 meters long. While short still a challenging hole due to the visual presentation of the lowered green.
4th hole – 395 meter par 4 (S.I. 3) – called ‘Grub’ (Ditch)
The back tees on this hole start just off the back right side of the 3rd and is the first blind tee shot over heather. The ideal shape for the drive is a slight fade. The fairways is not extremely wide and the hole looks quite narrow from the tee. An intimidating tee shot if you don’t know the course. A strong drive will leave a long iron or hybrid to a lowered green that is protect by a single bunker front right as well as run offs from the green on the back and left side over the greenside swale. The on the backside of this green it is connected to the green of the 8th hole.
5th hole – 485 meter par 5 (S.I. 11) – called ‘Brem’ (Broom)
This 485 meter par 5 starts in excellent fashion but leads to one of the only architectural question marks on the course. A long drive over heather and to a relatively narrow fairway sets up a second shot that needs to be played to the left side of the fairway in able to have an open shot at this green. This hole was changed from Colt’s original desigen by Hawtree. Honestly, I’m not sure what he was thinking but he made a mess of it by moving the green to a sharp dogleg right at the end. The green is totally blocked out on the right side now by two huge beech trees. It’s a shame as it takes all the Colt characteristics away from the hole and leaves a bad taste in your mouth regardless of your score. The best thing they could do if it were an option is to have this green redone, moved or have the hole rerouted and remove some trees in order to fix the approach. It is really the only poor hole on the entire course and luckily a relatively easy fix.
6th hole – 391 meter par 4 (S.I. 1) – called ‘Bosbessen’ (Blueberry)
This long and difficult par 4 requires a excellent tee shot to a blind landing area to the right side of the fairways. The tee shot from the back tees is under and through two large trees 20 meters in front of the tee box. This forces you to hit driver. A carry of 206 meters gets over the large swale running through the fairway and allows for the chance to reach this green in two. The approach is also blind however the green allows for running approaches and the fairway feeds down onto the green which you can’t see from the approach area. The green is large, 30 meters deep and has significant undulations that are tricky to read.
7th hole – 304 meter par 4 (S.I. 9) – called ‘Rode Mierenhoop’ (Red Anthill)
This short par 4 is one of my favorite holes on the course although not without controversy. A 3 wood or hybrid off the tee that carries about 170 meters will carry a short valley of heather and waste area leaving a wedge approach to a back to front sloping green with protected by a large bunker front right side. This bunker has no a characteristics of a Colt bunker as it was redone and while the hole is a great hole the bunker change takes away from the consistency of the course and therefore is questionable and a strange choice seeing as how it would have been just as easy to maintain the bunkering theme throughout the course and keep it in Colt’s style.
8th hole – 196 meter par 3 (S.I. 13) – called ‘Schapenzuring’ (Sheep’s Sorrel)
The 8th is a long one shotter that requires a carry over heather and several bunkers. With some of the nicest bunkering on the course and a very undulated green there are several excellent pin positions and even the shortest of puts as I learned is quite a challenge. I hit perhaps my best tee shot of the day to about 3 feet and was faced with a hard breaking quick downhill slider of a put that robbed me of my birdie. However, it’s still a great hole.
9th hole – 390 meter par 4 (S.I. 7) – called ‘Buizard’ (Buzzard)
This long par 4 requires a tee shot over the corner of the 8th green from the back tees and a carry over heather. It sets up very well for a fade. A long tee shot will leave a mid to long iron approach to a green heavily protected by undulations and one large bunker 24 meters in front of the green to the right which makes the run up a little more of a challenge. It ends back at the clubhouse.
10th hole – 339 meter par 4 (S.I. 6) – called ‘Driekleurig viooltje’ (Three Colored Violet)
This medium length 2-shotter is one of my favorites on the course. A 3 wood or hybrid tee shot to a visually deceiving landing area that is nestled between hills and heather and appears very narrow will leave a challenging semi blind approach over a couple ridges and bunkers to a 27 meter deep green that has run offs to the left side to catch longer shots. Notable on this hole is that the approach is really tough visually and requires a carry pretty much all the way to the green as short is trouble in a big way.
11th hole – 459 meter par 5 (S.I.10) – called ‘Erica of Dopheide’ (Heather)
This medium length par 5 doglegs to the right and starts with a very tight drive through the heather covered hills. With a strong drive certainly reachable in two but an excellent drive is really a challenge. The green is large 31 meters deep and has a couple distinctive slopes.
12th hole – 174 meter par 3 (S.I.16) – called ‘Gekraagde roodstaart’ (Redstart)
This classic 1-shotter is typical of a Colt heathland course. A tee shot requiring carry over the heather and light wasteland to a slight elevated green protected by bunkers on the left and right front as well as back left. The green has several undulations and some light run offs. Another excellent hole.
13th hole – 409 meter par 4 (S.I. 2) – called ‘Grove Den’ (Pine Tree)
This long par 4 dog leg left requires a long and accurate drive to have a realistic chance of reaching the green in two. The approach to the green is semi blind unless the drive ends up long enough and on the right side of the fairway. The green has several undulations and can be played with a running approach.
14th hole – 325 meter par 4 (S.I. 8) – called ‘Rendiermos’ (Reindeer Moss)
This short par 4 plays from an elevated tee down to a fairly generous and wide fairway protected by one bunker at 195 meters on the right side. The green slopes severely from back to front with a significant false front and is protected by a large bunker on the front left of the hole.
15th hole – 159 meter par 3 (S.I. 18) – called ‘Trosvlier’ (Red Elder)
This short one shotter is certainly one of the best par 3’s on the course. From an elevated tee a good shot clears the heather and false front to this long green protected on the right side by trees and a large bunker below the green. Depending on the pin position missing to the left side is pretty safe as everything roles down the hill as long as it’s long enough. This is visually a really beautiful hole to see from the tee and very fun to play as well.
16th hole – 340 meter par 4 (S.I. 4) – called ‘Vingerhoedskruid’ (Foxglove)
This is another great hole with a simply majestic view from the tee box. This medium length par 4 requires a solid drive with a 3 wood or driver that avoids the bunkers left and right as well as the heather. Basically there is one play, the fairway which is generous in the landing area even though I still managed to miss it and hit the large bunker. The green is heavily protected by huge bunkers on the left and right and undulates from back to front.
17th hole – 291meter par 4 (S.I. 14) – called ‘Krentenboompjes’ (Service Berry)
This par 4 is yet another great hole from a highly elevated back tee you hit down into the valley to a narrow fairway lined by heather on both sides. A 3 wood or hybrid leaves a short to middle iron shot to a high elevated green which needs to be hit on the fly. It’s protected by bunkers on the bottom of the hill right and in front of the green to the right.
18th hole – 470 meter par 5 (S.I. 12) – called ‘Bosuil’ (Wood Owl)
The final 3 shotter is a great finishing hole requiring a straight drive from a high elevated and wooded tee back down to the fairway lined with heather on both sides. A long drive finding the fairway offer a legitimate shot at the green in two. The green slopes from back to front and is protected by 3 bunkers left front and side and right front. The terrace of the 19th hole sits to the right allowing for a clear view from the would be peanut gallery to admire or be amused by everyone’s approaches.
In finalizing, De Pan is a Colt Classic, perfectly manicured and maintained in a lovely Heathland landscape. The course is extremely fun and a wonderful place for members of all levels to enjoy. It’s a must on any trip to The Netherlands if you aim to play the best courses. Please note however that it is very private so Friday’s and weekends will be nearly impossible to arrange tee times if you are not the guest of a member. They do allow limited play during the week. However, you will have to find it first. David Davis